2018 – A SUP Race Review

Hello, good evening and welcome to yet another SUP blog article!

As some of you may recall, back in the mist of time (last year, 2017), I was persuaded to take up Standup Paddleboarding with the wonderful Saltwalk club based in Derby.

Being in a race based club, my experience of SUP is probably slightly different than a lot of peoples as racing is what we do.  We do lots of other things, but N1SCO racing is at the heart of the Club…

So then, 2017… I started paddling, did lots of paddling, did a number of races, and generally got sunburned, overheated, frozen, excited, nervous, mosquito bitten, dehydrated, exhausted, wet, very wet and a whole lot fitter.

Looking at 2018, I started the year with the best intentions of blogs and newsletters for the Club, but as a lot of good intentions, things didn’t quite happen!

Sprints in Emsworth

So as we now approach Autumn, and with the 2018 race series behind us, it seemed a good time for a quick (or possibly quite long) recap of a mad year.

Back at the end of 2017, we were still paddling in the evenings pretty much until the end of October.  One of the joys of an urban river is that it’s never fully dark, and with high viz tops and a few bike torches, we could train safely in the dark evenings.  Unfortunately, as the weather turns colder, it also turned wetter and windier, which meant the river conditions were not safe.  Fortunately, we had a plan B, which was Jenni’s House of Pain…

Snow on the ground? Time to go paddling!

Jenni put together a High Intensity Interval Training routine together, using rowing erg machines, along with core strength training.  This was all done in the Rowing Club.  Saltwalk sessions became extremely sweaty, followed by two days of DOMS!

There may also have been a few social sessions – Sitting in a Santa Train full of excited kids after a night out with the gang was not fun!

Mark and Helen at Halloween!

So then, onto 2018…

The indoor training carried on into 2018 (as did the DOMS…).  We had a few more socials including Neil’s Karaoke  moment (and the birth of Saltwalk Glitter).

Spring saw a mixture of Snow, warm weather, wind and rain.  White Water SUP paddling proved to be insanely good fun, even if ever so painful, and we started to prep for the upcoming race series as well as the WSA Instructors Course.

The Instructors course is definitely worth a mention. The course itself is excellent, but very intensive, both on and off the water.  The rescue parts of the course involved much swimming in the murky swollen Derwent as we practised rescue technique, towing and throwlines.  You also get to practice every single stroke you have ever been shown!  Highly recommended 🙂

Practicing the many uses of clingfilm on the Instructor Course!

Before the main race season kicked off, I saw a Facebook popup for the Bala Race-The-Train event.  Last year, this was my very first outing on a board, and even if it wasn’t part of the race calendar, it seemed like a god idea to see what it was like a year on…

By coincidence, we were planning to visit the in-laws in Wale that weekend, and with a bit of persuading, managed to convince my other half that a ride on a steam train in Bala would be great for the kids…

Having dropped the family off at the staion, I headed over to the start line to blowup the board, get kitted up and generally faff.

Tony from Green Dragon was organising things, and this year wasn’t supposed to be a serous race, and that once the train started, we could all paddle en-mass towards the end, and possibly have a little race once we were near the bottom end of the lake.  That plan went totally out of the window as soon as the train whistle blew and off we set at race pace!

5Km later, we managed to draw with the train.  I came a very close second, losing the lead in the last few hundred meters.  Roll on next year’s race!

2nd place and drew with the train 🙂

Racing then…

As we race N1SCO boards, we compete in two series – the main N1SCO events (three of them) and as part of the N1SCO fleet in the GBSUP Race Series.  Both series are excellent for paddlers of all abilities and experience.

The GBSUP races were held in London (Battle of the Thames), Cardiff (part of the Cardiff International White Water Festival), Rutland (at the National Watersports Festival), Windermere (Windermere Solstice Paddle Fest) and Bournemouth (BaySUP).

BoTT was a bit of a damp and gloomy start of the race series, and I certainly wasn’t paddling my best, even if I did manage to avoid the various lumps of tree drifting down the Thames (a few others didn’t!)…  Having ran out of energy before the halfway point, I slowed right down and considered looking for a tea room or cake shop to stop at on the way back to the finish line.  It was only when I heard Neil tying to sneak up on me that I picked up the pace a smidgen and get to the finish a few boards length in front!

Ninja Neil sneaking up at the Battle of the Thames

Cardiff was ace.  It was a Bank Holiday Weekend and we went SUP surfing the day before, which was probably a mistake in terms of a race result as any pretence of saving some energy for the race went out the window.  We went MegaSUP surfing for a while and I have never laughed so much.  Normal SUP surfing is a fantastic way to gain board skills and kill yourself at the same time!

Mega SUP Surfing

The actual race in Cardiff involved a short sprint (managed to bag 3rd!) and the main 10Km race up and down the Taff  (not my best race, but felt better than the Thames, despite the heat).

Sprinting in Cardiff

Rutland… Where to start?

The GBSUP race in Rutland is part of the National Watersports Festival,which is mainly Windsurfing and (a growing number) SUP.

The was plenty to do on the the water with the GBSUP races and the NWF events, and then a couple of nights of partying.

Party time in Rutland!

The GBSUP races were a one way sprint (2nd!) and a 10Km distance race.

The Friday night party may have taken it’s toll somewhat as there didnt seem much enthusiasm on Saturday morning.  Much bacon did help matters!  The 10km race was obviously set by a masochist.  From the start, it was across the reservoir, round a buoy, across the water again and round another buoy and then paddle to the bottom end of Rutland water, round another mark that you couldn’t see due to the curvature of the Earth, and then retrace your course.

It did seem much longer than 10K, but I actually had a reasonable  race, found a good pace and stuck to it, and finished much higher up the board than I was expecting to (5th :-))

Falling off the MegaSUP!

Unfortunately I couldnt make Windermere due to kiddies birthdays, but it looked a fantastic, if slightly challenging race – I heard ore than one comment about there being both a headwind and a tailwind on a dead straight course!


Cooking at Rutland

BaySUP was the last race of the GBSUP celendar and saw more scorching hot weather on the beach down at Sandbanks, near Poole Harbour.  This was a last minute entry for me as I didn’t think I would be able to make it, but Deke yet again provided transport and accommodation for the night.  The race was hard work, with five laps involving a technical course (with a long leg running parallel to the shore and across all the swell/chop) including a run around a flag on the beach.  Run might be being slightly optimistic and I walked around the flag most times.  I found the course extremely challenging due to the swell and had many swims on the way round!

Deke and Victoria waiting for the race to start

The N1SCO races kicked off in Emsworth down in Chichester Harbour.  The N1SCO events usually follow the same format.  A short (2-3Km) technical race, sprints (including a bouy turn) and a longer distance race (5-8Km).  The N1SCO events are always great, with a fantastic atmosphere.  The sprints and technical race are all in the mirror calm (at least until the paddling starts) Slipper Pond, and the distance race takes place in Chichester Harbour itself.

Slipper Pond in Emsworth

In the races themselves, I felt much better than last year, and was keeping up with the guys I only saw in the distance last year.  The race across the harbour was great and much more enjoyable than last year  (I still owe Johnny a fiver for taking Lee out at the half way mark!)

Coming up to the finish line for the distance race

Swanage was the next N1SCO race and is a fantastic venue for a weekend on the beach.  This year, we didn’t have the Mowlem Theatre as a base, but were outside on the promenade.  For me, this  was much better than the year before.

Swanage promenade

We also had Naish rider and world Champion Casper Steinfath along to give hints, tips and encouragement.  The Q&A session on Saturday was excellent, even if a few totally random, non SUP related questions snuck in!

Bacon on the beach in Swanage

The racing was in the same format – Technical, sprints and a distance race.

As with the previous year, the wind featured quite prominently, and Sunday’s distance race was windy, wavy (not quite 8 foot!) and involved a few dunking.

The ‘fun’ races were also excellent in Swanage

The last N1SCO was originally going to be held in the Midlands, but the dates would have clashed with the APP races in Docklands. Instead, the Profesional paddlers in the APP were joined by the slightly less professional paddlers and the race venue was moved to London.

Monkey Man Ryan and the big Rio Chair

As with a lot of summer 2018, the weather was hot (over 30C).

The technical race for me wasn’t brilliant, but I did better in the sprints than last year.  The distance race was hard going,  but I had my best result in a N1SCO race (11th!).

Sunday morning, post race paddle

With  few tonnes of peer pressure, I was persuaded to enter the sprint wildcard, and after a bad buoy turn with a lot of congestion, I clawed my way back to a photo finish with Jonny Greatrex and into the sprint final 🙂

The sprint final was tough – I managed to nearly get knocked off approaching the turn, but didn’t finish last, so really pleased with the result!

Photofinish for the Wildcard Sprint Final

Aside from the racing, there were also numerous club trips, pub trips, SUPX games and not forgetting the fabulous Trent 100 (more on that at a later date…).

The highlights of the year for me?

There were several highlights for me.

The first was passing the WSA instructors course.  It’s a tough and tiring few days, but the course is excellent.


The next was winning the GBSUP N1SCO sprint series, which was totally unexpected!

GBSUP N1SCO Sprint – 1st place

The Trent 100 was a superb experience – there’ll be a write up along shortly!

Saltwalk Glitter may have stopped for a pint on day one!

Overall, it was great to finish races in a higher place than last year – definitely seeing an improvement in fitness.

Roll on 2019!




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